Produce from Refugee Farmer Commercial Garden to appear on local restaurant's menu

Garlic from the Refugee Farmer Commercial Garden in Bowling Green will be served up at a local restaurant this summer. (Photo: Madison Martin)
Garlic from the Refugee Farmer Commercial Garden in Bowling Green will be served up at a local restaurant this summer. (Photo: Madison Martin)(WBKO)
Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 10:36 PM CDT
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About a year ago, the Refugee Farmer Commercial Garden in Bowling Green held their first farmer's market of the season.

Now, the plot of land is producing enough to end up in a local restaurant.

"It's very exciting for us, because we've been aiming for our plantings to get to the point where we can do that," said Timothy Kercheville, the farm manager of the garden.

Growth and progress are self-evident in the garden nestled across the street from the International Center of Kentucky.

The project is to help give refugees in our area access to farming and extra income by selling to locals.

And now, some of their produce will be on the menu at Hickory & Oak.

"It's a really great opportunity on both ends -- me, I get a great local, quality product -- them, they get to mass sell in bulk and really up that income level," said Josh Poling, the owner of Hickory & Oak.

The garden, worked on by over a dozen refugees to turn less than half an acre of land in downtown Bowling Green into something fruitful.

Kondela Kamulette, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and previously a French teacher, is an example.

"I think it's what makes Bowling Green so unique and so special. You don't find too many towns with about 60,000 people with a statewide international center in it, so it's a really neat opportunity, and they add so much -- the refugees, and really any international citizen adds so much to the community. We've got a great food scene because of them, and so anyway to encourage that growth -- we're all about that," said Poling.

"A lot of people think of farming as being out in the county, and of course, we love our farmers out there too, but to be able to take advantage of the resources here and let some people that have been disenfranchised have an opportunity to kind of get back to what they know is a really good thing," said Matthew Brown, the executive chef at Hickory & Oak. "And for us to be able to be a partner in that is a -- we're excited about that."

At least 16 crops grow there, especially a ton of garlic.

"We have about 4,000 -- it's somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 garlic that we have here. And that's just the garlic crop," said Kercheville.

Hickory & Oak plans to utilize it on their seasonal menu potentially along with some of the garden's fruit.

"What we want to do is a roasted garlic appetizer that features their garlic and our foccacia together. We haven't finished that dish by any means. It's one of those things where, in this industry, nothings really finished until Thursday night when we say 'Let's go live with it.' So it's always an editorial process but that's our game plan now. It may change next week," said Brown.

The garden is less than two years old, and it's been working hard to deliver on its promise.

"Basically, this was a test to see if we could work well together and to see if we could turn this infertile clay, Bermuda grass lawn into a magnificent commercial garden that would make us food and make the refugee farmers money," said Kercheville. "And we're doing that."

Besides the upcoming harvest on the summer solstice, the garden is getting ready to expand its operations and opportunities for refugees by starting a multi-acre garden at Ephram White Park later this month.

Their produce is expected to show up on Hickory & Oak's menu beginning Thursday, June 13.

On Thursday, June 6, the garden will be represented at Preservation Tasting Room and Bottle Shop, where they'll be selling some of their current harvests.

You can also purchase produce at the International Center.

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